Asia’s women founders look to the future

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Helping small businesses, especially other women entrepreneurs, is what drives Sonja Johar, co-founder of the chatbot service Halosis. As she explains, “In Indonesia, there are millions of women who need jobs, and want to help their family financially…if I can provide an easy, affordable solution for them, I can change their future.” 

Sonja is one of the many amazing female founders pursuing big ideas across Asia Pacific. The impact of Covid-19 means it’s a tough environment for founders everywhere, but it can be even harder for women—who tend to take on disproportionate family care responsibilities. As a working mom herself (with another one on the way!), Sonja is even more motivated to help other women entrepreneurs because she knows how hard it is to balance work and family life. 

Time and time again, we’ve seen that when we invest in female founders, like in our Campus for Moms program, it has a multiplier effect in supporting local economies—something even more important given today’s challenges. In 2019, more than 20 unicorns were started by women founders, but even with this success, women are still massively underrepresented among startups. For instance, in Korea, only nine percent of founders are women. 

That’s why, this week, we launched Immersion: Women Founders: an eight-week, skills-building mentorship program for high potential startups selected from the Asia Pacific startup community. The selected startups will be partnering with experienced Google mentors to help them solve growth challenges—whether it’s expanding their customer base, growing revenue, or preparing for fundraising. Along with Sonja, this cohort includes: 

  • Hanna Kim, Grip (Korea): A live-streaming e-commerce platform in Korea, changing the way people sell and buy products.
  • Jungeun You, Mabo (Korea): A pioneering mindfulness meditation app in Korea, creating a safe mobile app space where users can practice meditation and connect with a community.
  • Afia Fitriati, Gadjian (Indonesia): A platform to automate tedious HR and admin operations, helping change people management for Indonesian SMEs.
  • Khushboo Aggarwal, Zyla (India):A digital chronic care management platform, delivering personalized real-time care for patients with chronic illnesses.
  • Kyoko Otawa, Latona (Japan):A cutting-edge computing solution for factory and unmanned retail, helping with automation and cost savings.
  • Machi Takahashi, Stroly (Japan): An online platform for illustrated maps, so people can experience different places through local illustration.

Google for Startups supports female founders around the world by connecting them with the best of Google’s people, products and programming. As we launch this new program, we’re taking lessons from our global network, including our work with women founders in Canada and the U.S. and in Europe, to create our first program in Asia.  

I was so energized during the kick-off session this week as the founders from across the region met each other and talked about their shared experiences and hopes for the program. We’re looking forward to helping these incredible founders take the next steps towards success and growth.

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